50 years and counting: China and Australia look to net zero path

Jan 2023


In 2023, Australia and China enter their 51st year of bilateral relations. This brings an opportunity to extend collaboration and cooperation as part of global efforts to accelerate decarbonisation.

To celebrate the relationship and to launch two reports that champion future possibilities, King & Wood Mallesons co-hosted a virtual event in December with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) and the Australia China Business Council (ACBC). The rich discussion revealed a universal passion to collaborate towards net zero, particularly drawing from complementary strengths.

Speakers, panellists and viewers tuned in across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Australia as 2022 drew to a close and the 50year anniversary neared (bilateral relations were established on December 21, 1972).

Australian Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher, Austrade General Manager for Greater China Rob Donelly, Australia China Business Council National President David Olsson, KWM Global Chief Executive Sue Kench and KWM Partners Kathy Fan and Su Meng were among speakers.

National Foundation for Australia-China Relations CEO Peter Cai delivered the keynote and a number of prominent business people shared their perspectives.

The reports launched were:

  • Austrade, Path to Net Zero – Australian Solutions for a Sustainable  Future
  • ACBC & KWM, The Climate Challenge – Opportunities from Collaboration Between Australia and China – available in English and in Chinese

Below are some highlights. We look forward to sharing more of our insights as the journey progresses.

This post is for… anyone with an interest in decarbonisation, cross-border business opportunities, economic relations in the Asia Pacific region

Read on for… insights on the importance of collaborating and interesting facts on China’s renewable energy and emissions trading scheme

The high level engagement between Prime Minister Albanese and President Xi Jinping over the past few months is encouraging

“Engagement is critical. It enables understanding. Understanding our differences but finding areas for common ground will be key to the next phase of our relationship.” – KWM Global Chief Executive Sue Kench

Forging the path ahead is about seizing economic complementarities, but it is also about connecting people

“It’s a relationship that is underpinned by the strong and enduring complementarity of our economies, and most importantly it is marked by strong people-to-people links, across all parts of our societies.” – ACBC National President & KWM International Director David Olsson

Government, business and institutions in Australia and China can work together to address the climate challenge

“China is a world leader in the technology we all need to decarbonise the global economy, including batteries, electric vehicles and renewable power generation. By working together and drawing on our respective strengths to solve the challenges we all share, we are more likely to deliver a truly sustainable future in which the benefits are shared by all.” – David Olsson

International cooperation will make the transition to net zero quicker, cheaper and easier for everyone

“ACBC’s mission is to improve the Australian business community’s awareness of the changes in the Chinese market brought on by their adoption of new green economy policy initiatives, and through that, identify opportunities for collaboration that can grow new trade and investment for Australia, and support a wider business engagement.” – David Olsson

China’s investment in renewable energy has ranked first in the world for seven years and the market has entered the stage of high-quality development

“China’s renewable energy industry has experienced tremendous changes in all aspects in the past decade. In recent years, we have seen vigorous development of both centralised and distributed solar energy stations. We have also seen that China is on its way to build a multi-energy complementary system with energy storage as the core to ensure the sustained, stable and high-quality development of our energy economy.” – KWM partner Kathy Fan

Despite the outbreak of COVID 19, MNCs are still rushing to invest in renewable energy projects

“Chinese enterprises are stepping up the pace of international cooperation, and the global energy transition is accelerating. We are very delighted to find there is increasing project cooperation between China and Australia.” – Kathy Fan

China launched its national emissions trading scheme in 2021 and in November 2022 the total trading volume reached 200 million tons 

“China now is one of the world’s largest emitters, and China’s ETS is the world’s largest. The success of China’s ETS will help determine the future of climate change. And the establishment of a carbon market will certainly incentivise low-carbon investments.” – KWM partner Molly Su

China is developing its carbon derivatives market and working on carbon asset management programs

“This shows the great potential of the China carbon market not only to support the objective of carbon neutrality but also to create a risk hedging market for all the investors, to encourage higher trading volume and liquidity and also to bring out the function of price discovery.” – Molly Su


To read more about the opportunities from collaboration, visit our report on The Climate Challenge – itself a collaborative effort between KWM and ACBC.


David Olsson is an International Director of King & Wood Mallesons with over 30 years' experience in the areas of cross-border investments, corporate finance and financial markets, working with clients, industry bodies and governments in the Asian region.

David is passionate about building relationships and connections across Asia Pacific borders. It's why in the spare time that he doesn't have, he steers the Australia China Business Council as its current National President and Chair (among other roles too numerous to mention).

He is also on a mission to see more young Aussies live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region, via the New Colombo Plan (an Australian government initiative).

Currently based in Hong Kong, but Shenzhen has his heart.

Claire Rogers is Head of Climate and ESG Strategy at King & Wood Mallesons and has an active practice advising on project finance. Claire advises on highly complex projects across all areas, including renewable energy and infrastructure.

When she’s not cultivating strong networks and giving strategically-savvy advice, Claire can be found exploring sea life in the Philippines or eating cheese in France.

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